Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bored of the Dance
(Like no one's ever used that pun before...)

I'm really getting sick and tired of these TV shows where I'm supposed to lie on the couch scratching my crotch while I watch people dance in front of judges. Don't get me wrong: even though I'm incredibly white and am therefore basically limited to a single spastic dance move, I generally love dancing. Generally. Partly because there's something hardwired deep down that makes moving at the same speed as a particular rythym fun, and partly because — I don't know why — girls generally don't want me touching them. This is one of those lessons from the junior prom, like how to pin on a corset without puncturing your date's artery, that you take with you for the rest of your life: The trick is to sit at a table right off the dance floor, looking extraordinarily pathetic with big droopy doe eyes, and since girls (unlike guys) have souls, they'll take pity on you and ask you to dance. Yes, it's only a step above hiring an escort, but it's still miles above slipping GHB in someone's tequila shooter. (Which, by the way, is a show NBC is working on to follow Fear Factor next fall.)

It's not that I mind how there's ballroom dancing competitions and krumping competitions and Asian kids playing Dance Dance Revolution competitions on TV. I mind that they're so popular, that so many Americans have nothing better to do with their lives than sit on the sidelines watching other people dance. (Or try to dance.) It's like when ESPN2 broadcasts regional bass fishing qualifiers on Saturday morning, and there's lazy-ass faux outdoorsmen still lying in bed who aren't even fishing but watching fishing. I watch celebrity poker, but at least I'm disappointed that I don't have enough friends to hold my own home games. This really bothers me.

When did we become so boring and vacuous as a society that watching regular people do regular things became entertaining? Television used to be there for vicarious thrills most of us would never be lucky (or unlucky, depending...) to experience: stuff involving hot girls or guns or, preferably, both. Now they show the banal, pointless lives of your friends and neighbors, and no one's being satiric about it either. Here's American Idol, where they'll fulfill the most fantastical fame-and-fortune dreams of someone who's still a thirteen-year-old at heart; there's So You Think You Can Dance, where folks'll clomp around on stage trying to become a professional... dancer? The days of the Fame triple-threat are gone; now let's see how well you can perform just one skill that's usually regulated to the background anyway. Seriously, how many famous dancers can you think of? And Kevin Federline doesn't count.

I knew things were getting bad when I got sucked into The Sims, the latest and most popular in Maxis's line of real-life simulator computer games. You create a character, or a family of characters, and then you direct them to live a boring suburban existence. You can tell them to have breakfast or clean their bathroom or sit down in a recliner, so it's basically Dungeons and Dragons for people who don't like having their imaginations taxed too heavily. I'd spend hours in front of the computer screen watching these characters in their electronic sleep or manifesting conversations of ones and zeroes (my Sims liked to talk about the weather) and then I'd complain about how I couldn't make friends.

Thankfully, I've grown up a little (but only a little) since my Sims addiction. Now if I feel some sort of dance groove, I head out to a club... or more likely, I dance in my room with the door closed, making an ass out of myself when no one's watching except our Orwellian government. And then I turn on the TV and enjoy gay guys making over a hapless straight dude.